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Psalm 16

Yahveh is all I need

A David psalm.

Watch over me, God.
I’ve taken refuge in you.
2 I’ve said to Yahveh
“You’re my master.
Nothing good comes to me
apart from you.”
Those in our land who lead holy lives
are my heroes, my delight.
They’re asking for nothing but trouble
who run after other gods.
I won’t offer them blood libations
or even utter their names!

Yahveh, you’re all I need—
my food, my drink.
You hold my destiny in your hands.
The land you marked out for me
is all I could ask for—
a rich inheritance.
7 I bless Yahveh who guides me
and teaches my spirit by night.
I’ve made Yahveh my sole focus.
I won’t falter with him  beside me.
So my heart is glad, my soul is joyful
and my body rests easy.
10 For you won’t leave me among the dead
or let your holy one rot in the grave.
11 You’ll show me the path that leads to life.
With you smiling on me
I know the joy of constant abundance.
When I’m beside you
the pleasures are never-ending.

In ancient Israel, servants owed their master absolute loyalty, while masters were bound to protect and provide for their servants. David begins this psalm, like many before it, pleading for protection. Then he professes his devotion to Yahveh (vv. 2-4) and recounts his divine master’s bountiful provision for him (vv. 5-11).

The Israelites served other gods along with Yahveh, just as we do today. (The difference is that their gods came with actual idols.) David knows worshipping other gods ultimately it leads to disaster. Inspired by those totally devoted to Yahveh, David altogether renounces other gods.

What draws us to other gods is thinking they’ll meet needs God can’t or won’t meet. David says Yahveh meets all his needs and more besides—and holds his destiny in his hands. He acknowledges the goodness of all God’s gifts, where he’s put him, his constant guidance and unfailing support. With so loving and gracious a master, David is determined to look to him always and trust him to keep him from falling. He lives wholly in the confidence that, far from abandoning him to death, God will show him the pathway to endless life and joy in his bountiful care.

I feel the constant pull of materialism, consumerism and sensualism. But like every addiction, such gods demand more and more while giving less and less. You offer me a life without lack, Lord. Keep me looking always to you, confident that your love and care for me will never fail. Amen.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.